Thursday, 21 June, 2018

Donald Trump approves plan to arm Syrian Kurds

US Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis right shakes hands with Danish Defense Minister Claus Hjort Frederiksen during a press conference in Copenhagen Denmark Tuesday Donald Trump approves plan to arm Syrian Kurds
Kenny Thornton | 10 May, 2017, 14:43

The Turkish government considers the YPG to be an extension of the Kurdistan Workers Party, known by the acronym PKK, that has conducted terrorist attacks inside Turkey. Already, the YPG has received air support from the United States and, indirectly through Arab fighters, some USA weaponry.

The Pentagon would like to arm the Syrian Kurds as part of the planned push to recapture Raqqa, but the Turks have been adamantly opposed.

The brutal Syrian regime, he alleged, is supporting terrorism, maintaining its then-existing occupation of Lebanon, pursuing weapons of mass destruction and missile programmes, and undermining the USA and worldwide efforts with respect to the stabilisation and reconstruction of Iraq.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is due to visit Washington next week. A congressional aide said officials informed relevant members of Congress of the decision on Monday evening.

Meanwhile at the White House, Press Secretary Sean Spicer told reporters Tuesday that he was unsure whether President Trump had informed Mr. Erdogan of his decision.

However, U.S. officials said Mattis was not signaling a new agreement with Turkey about the battle plan for Raqqa, and maintained the Trump administration is skeptical of Turkey's claims that it can manage the liberation of Raqqa without Kurdish help.

The YPG forms the backbone of the SDF's forces.

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Turkey views those Kurdish fighters in Syria as terrorists, or as allied with terrorists, due to their connection to the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or the PKK militant group, which wants to carve out its own independent state within Turkey.

Even with the extra US weaponry, the Kurds and their Syrian Arab partners are expected to face a hard and perhaps lengthy fight for control of Raqqa, which has been key to the extremists' state-building project.

The United States has agreed to supply weapons to the main Kurdish opposition group in Syria, a move likely to anger Turkey just days before a meeting between the USA and Turkish leaders in Washington.

Under Secretary of State Tom Shannon also had a closed meeting with Turkish presidential adviser Ibrahim Kalin Tuesday at the State Department.

"We were troubled by that", Air Force Col. John Dorrian, a spokesman for Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve, said of Turkey's failure to give adequate warning of airstrikes in the Hasaka area. "NATO allies stick together, " he said. "They see no alternative ground force for seizing Raqqa", said Chris Kozak, an analyst at the Institute for the Study of War. However, the White house's decision could not be positively accepted by the allied Turkey, which regards Kurd rebels as terrorists. Last month, Turkish warplanes launched assaults on Kurdish fighters in Iraq and Syria, killing more than a dozen people, and prompting a public condemnation from Washington.

The order has been signed and that "allows the process to begin to function", one official said. Kurdish leaders have said that if the people of Raqqa wish to join their autonomous "democratic federal" system after the Islamic State is defeated, that would be fine with them. Both are likely to be needed if Kurdish troops are to successfully penetrate Raqqa, well fortified by Islamic State militants.

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